When Free Isn’t Free at All! Read This BEFORE You Get Sued

Okay, so you just downloaded and installed a really neat looking, free WordPress template to your website. Wow, and the image used in the header is soooo awesome, you figure, “why not keep it.”

Let me tell you from experience… free isn’t free at all. And, using template images (and/or Google searched images) COULD cost you severely!

If you use the image(s) supplied in free templates (which many templates no longer include the images for this very reason), you’re opening yourself up to a potential law suit. If you don’t believe me, ask a copyright lawyer.

screen print of a demo site using this theme

The average Joe may think that if you violate someone’s copyright issues… especially when you don’t even know you did… that you would simply be issued a “cease and desist” type of legal document.

Heck, I have American friends who thought the very same too… so I KNOW it’s not just a Canadian failed-way of thinking!

So, if YOU’RE thinking you’d only receive a simple “cease and desist” type of legal notice… I ask you, “Can you AFFORD to be wrong?”

Go ahead… Google “images copyright issues” and read up on it for yourself.

Over the past few years, several website owners (and, even some who PAID to have their website created!) have discovered a very nasty, legal letter in their regular mailboxes, informing them of their copyright violation(s)… along with a notice of the extremely high price for the violation(s).

a judge's gavel

As you’re reading this, you may be saying to yourself, “No, no… NO way is this sort of thing going on. Not in North America?!”

Well then, all I can say is… think again.

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It has happened to MANY… causing several websites to be even be shut down… and is STILL happening, right NOW!

Legalized extortion though it may be, American firms have more money than those of us being sued. So, if you get one of those letters …and you don’t pay up… they’ll simply destroy you, financially speaking.


My advice to anyone even contemplating using the FREE WordPress, Photoshop, HTML …or ANY template image is… DON’T! So, who owns free template images? Not the users, that’s for sure!

If you don’t own an image, and you have NO license clearly stating your right to use an image… than DO NOT use the image.

If you hire a graphic created, make SURE you receive full disclosure as to WHERE the image came from, along with a license to use it… in writing.

If the image has been created (which it should be IF you’ve hired a graphic artist) for you, make sure you get a letter from the artist stating this fact, and KEEP that letter on file, where it can be easily retrieved, should you ever need to prove your right to use the image.

I highly recommend you read this article: How to Stop Using Stock Photos & Boycott the Stock Photo Industry.

Personally, I will always make sure WHO owns a stock photo website before ever considering to purchase images.

NEVER will I purchase from a site where the name “Getty Images” appears ANYWHERE on the site.

This way, I feel more confident of not receiving one of those nasty letters. Matthew Chan’s website also lists other image owners that you may wish to avoid like the plague.

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So far, I will ONLY TRUST Dreamstime.com whose mission is to serve customers by providing “small print” that is clearly stated. Thanks Dreamstime.com!

HELP: How to find out who owns the copyright to an image

How to Not Get Sued for Misusing Images

Though I’m not talking about dropshipping in this post, Wholesale Ted (her handle) provided some very interesting, very important facts in her short video below regarding using other’s images. You will gain much information listening to her advice.

Canadian and American website owners are NOT as fortunate as New Zealander site owners are, so BE AWARE!

Protected By Copyscape Do Not Copy

Other’s related posts

Legal Lesson Learned: Copywriter Pays $4,000 for $10 Photo
Pixabay images may NOT be “free” after all – https://pixabay.com/forum/questions-about-pixabay-11/got-a-copyright-fine-for-using-pixabay-image-how-1368/
and again … https://pixabay.com/forum/help-me-please-11/what-if-an-illegal-image-gets-uploaded-and-i-use-i-87/
Why can’t we use Google images on our website?
The $8,000 Mistake That All Bloggers Should Beware


Website Designer for Parr's Publishing. As a full certified Internet Specialist, I help business owners and organizations increase their profits by providing them with a fully managed, custom designed website as well as basic Search Engine Optimization.

12 thoughts on “When Free Isn’t Free at All! Read This BEFORE You Get Sued”

    • Just make SURE when you purchase images from such websites that you READ their small print Martha. Many restrict the type of use, and some even limit the period of time that you can use their images for. The ONLY stock images I feel that I can trust are those by http://www.Dreamstime.com

    • Thank YOU Suzie, for taking the time to comment. I still hear far too many saying they’ll just Google search for an image, which we both know could cost dearly if someone uses a copyright image without permission.

  1. Great share Trish. This can really become a problem! I was talking with my friends the other ay and she recommended that I use a watermark on all my images. Do you agree? It seems like a big task to me because I have so many images online, especially on facebook. thoughts?

    • Personally Nathalie, way back when I too was concerned about my images being stolen (heck, my head shot used here has apparently been seen on dating sites). However, upon investigating this issue further… well, one fella put it this way, if you DO NOT want your images stolen, do NOT post them online. So, ya’ I understand your concern… and like me, I’m sure you have NOT afforded a team of lawyers who can spend their day surfing the internet looking to see if anyone is using your images. So, you might consider plaster your URL (website address) on your images you feel might get stolen. That way, at least you’ll get credit (potential traffic) for the image.

      This post might interest you: http://blog.photoshelter.com/2010/09/watermarks-protecting-your-images-or-damaging-your/ though there are many other post writers out there, who deem watermarking works.

  2. This is GREAT advice! I’ve has several blogging friends who thought an image was free, didn’t pay attention to the terms and conditions of the creative commons license – they ARE NOT all the same, and paid the price.

    • Sorry to hear that your friends have had to experience this too Kimba. It truly is a nasty way to learn a lesson.
      And… Thank YOU for taking the time to comment!

    • So many people are getting these notices that I just had to create a warning. Remember, Dreamstime.com are THE best source I have found to use, and their prices are reasonable. If you’re ever wondering if you’re using an image properly, feel free to ask them at Dreamstime.com. They have real people that respond quit quickly to their customers.

  3. I was considering using a featured picture in a WordPress theme as my own featured picture. The picture looks very nice and is appropriate for my website. However, I was concerned about using this picture and possibly landing in hot water, due to copyright laws.

    Thankfully, I did a search on Google and came to your website. And after reading your article I have now decided not to use this picture/photo, and to stick with my own.

    Thank you very much for this information. You have cleared the air on what I should do.

    Kind regards,


    • Hey Brad, I am VERY glad to learn that you have decided NOT to use that template’s image. My goal in sharing this posts is to make sure as many website owners as possible, know of this issue. Same goes for supposed free images found online. Make sure they are REALLY free and not setup to catch you by this same law firm.

      DO make note of the size of the image used in the template you have chosen to use, so you will know what size to make the image you replace it with. Wishing you much success in whatever you choose to do.


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